This Monday, the US launched the “Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN” spacecraft, or MAVEN at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The MAVEN will reach Mars in September of next year and will orbit the planet primarily in an attempt to discover more about its atmosphere. However, the MAVEN will have company – just last week India launched its own Mars-bound rocket which will also orbit the red planet.

Now, while everyone knows space is fun, India’s new interplanetary endeavor has caught some flak. The cost of the probe itself, $73 million, is actually quite cheap compared to usual missions of similar scope, but the entirety of the Indian space program costs the country about $1 billion a year. While how India spends its money is certainly the country’s own prerogative, some have pointed out that last year India received close to $500 million dollars from UK tax payers in aid. It’s easy to understand the frustration: why should a country receiving millions in aid still allocate its own money for a program with no immediate benefit? An extra billion dollars a year could do much to alleviate poverty in India’s large population. Yet, it may be more important that India maintain its space program – it creates jobs and brings industry to the country, and keeps India relevant globally in science and technology. And who knows – space exploration could reap large benefits in the future that merit such a hefty initial investment now.

Do you think India should continue to accept aid while allocating money to its space program? Should we be using money that could be spent otherwise on space programs?